The Vegan Society defines veganism as “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals”. Vegans do not eat any form of meat like vegetarians; however, they also avoid all animal products, including dairy, eggs, and honey.
However, this definition does not tell us anything about the many different types of vegan! Of course, there are many individuals who became vegan for several reasons. The 4 main types of vegan are:
- Ethical Vegans
- Environmental Vegans
- Dietary Vegans
- Religious Vegans
It would probably be accurate to describe ethical vegans as the traditional vegan. Indeed, ethical veganism is the most common and unifying reason that people decide to go vegan. Ethical vegans elect not to consume animal products because they do not want their life to involve the exploitation of animals.
Within this group further distinctions can be made. Some go vegan in protest of modern factory farming techniques that contribute to the suffering of livestock animals. Others argue that all animals are sentient beings and thus, consuming animal products simply for pleasure is entirely unacceptable.
Environmental vegans seek to reduce their impact on the planet by reducing their intake of animal products. Mass consumption of meat and dairy is putting incredible pressure on the environment. For instance, demand for beef is the largest driver of forest degradation and deforestation due to the space needed to raise cattle. Eating meat contributes to the destruction of habitats and extinction of animals worldwide.
Worse still, the livestock itself release massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Researchers at the University of Oxford found that cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce an individual’s carbon footprint from food by up to 73%. Accordingly, environmental vegans hope to protect the environment and reduce their carbon footprint by not consuming animal products.
Dietary vegans can often be used interchangeably with “plant-based eaters”. This group refers to those who avoid animal products in their diet but might continue to use them in other products, such as clothing and cosmetics. Dietary vegans elect to not consume animal products for the potential health benefits.
Multiple studies have highlighted how the long-term consumption of increasing amounts of red meat and particularly of processed meat is associated with an increased risk of total mortality, cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes, in both men and women.
Whether you elect to go fully vegan or not, the science is pretty clear that reducing meat consumption is beneficial to the health of an individual.
Religious vegans choose a vegan diet due to their spiritual beliefs.
For example, the Indian religion of Jainism abhors all violent activity and thus followers consume a non-violent vegan diet. There also exist different schools of Buddhism, some of which include religious veganism. For the Buddhist in general, to be vegetarian or vegan (especially in industrialized countries) is a means of manifesting his or her compassion toward animals. Equally, while Hinduism does not require a vegetarian diet, some Hindus avoid eating meat because it minimizes hurting other life forms.
While other religions like Sikhism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity do not forbid the eating of animal products neither is it obligatory to do so.
Thus, there are quite a few religious vegans across the planet, who do not consume meat for religious reasons.
There are a diverse range of motivations as to why individuals choose to become vegan. If you’re thinking of becoming vegan but aren’t sure if it’s right for you, remember you are not alone in giving it a go!
There is no one way to be vegan so why not give it a try?